Chinese philosophers are on to something with their Yin and Yang concepts. Light balances dark, silence/noise, joy/sorrow, and in our case, mud offsets dust.
Yes, mud. Icky, gooey, sticky mud. Like cat hair, it latches onto anything it touches, finding its way from roads, yards, and pastures onto shoes and pant legs and into homes. It finds its way into the oddest places—a speckle stuck to a grocery sack, a chunk dropped by the door, a smear on a purse.
Lately, there’s been such an abundance of it that most of us can hardly remember the true color of our vehicles. Next time you drive through a parking lot, see if you can identify in-town-only transportation. Country cars and trucks can’t hide. One sported such a coating that chunks calved like ice floes off a glacier. The asphalt beneath that pickup had enough of someone’s former road or field topping it that a gardener could’ve stuck in potato eyes and carrot seeds to start a veggie patch.
Mud doesn’t just coat a car or truck’s paint job. It adds new dimensions to the driving experience. It’s clear all will proceed smoothly when tracks ahead follow a straight path in the appropriate lane.
However, tire-wide trails that weave back and forth across the road forming sharp little wedges along the ditch are a heads-up. They reveal every wheel jerk previous drivers made. When you observe this, tighten your seat belt and check for loose items. Deep ridges ditch to ditch inspire gasps and prayers.
It makes you wonder if amusement park race tracks based their design to keep vehicles on the road on such indentions. As moisture-laden soils dry, country drivers try to dodge tire-grabbing gouges that trap pickups and sedans in a Grand Canyon of ruts.
Those trying to escape these bone-rattling caverns on an icy morning sometimes find themselves fender to fence post or launched into a patch of green wheat. It’s a reminder that similar conditions caused the formation of the still-present tracks on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.
Fortunately, farmers and ranchers have a handle on this situation. Not only can their tractors pull entrenched vehicles from waterlogged morasses, most own multiple pairs of knee-high, rubberized boots they hose down after rescuing stuck drivers or tromping through the mess to feed and water livestock.
Mud isn’t just miserable; it multiplies work. Cattle, pig, and horse owners schedule extra time to care for animals. Road crews know their real work begins when it dries. Housekeepers and janitors cringe, thinking about the extra vacuuming and scrubbing. One day in such sludge explains why farmhouses require mud rooms.
But! Yes. But. Lack of mud means lack of moisture. It means blowing dirt. It means dust rooster tails hang forever airborne when someone drives down a country road. It means no green wheat peeks from furrows, no milo, no sorghum, no soybeans, no corn, no rippling creeks, no fish to catch, no wild flowers.
Lack of mud suggests no life for prairie lovers. So buy muck boots, vacuum bags, and start counting these dirty blessings.